Picture the scene, it’s a Thursday, just like today, but we’ve gone into the time machine and have altered the date slightly. Instead of the calendar reading 19th March 2020, it’s actually saying 18th May 1995.
The 1994-95 Premiership season has just ended. Everton ended the year in 15th place in the 22-team league, with the bottom four sides getting relegated. It has been a miserable year for the Blues who started the season with a hideous eight points in total from their first fourteen games with just one win in that time.
Mike Walker’s Houdini act that ensured the Toffees stayed in the top flight last season was quickly forgotten during a 12-game winless streak and the manager was summarily dismissed less than a year into the job. Everton looked so boring and aimless at times under him that we cannot imagine things will ever be this bad in the future.
Club legend and player-turned-manager Joe Royle took over the reins, and his first game in charge was the Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park. He inspired the team to a 2-0 win, and the Blues picked up another couple of victories in consecutive games after that. By mid-January Everton had climbed out of the relegation zone and were headed for a comfortable mid-table finish, but that was not what had captured the imagination of Blues everywhere.
While ensuring Premiership survival, Royle had somehow also engineered an epic FA Cup run for the ages where the Blues are now all the way to Wembley conceding just once the entire tournament. Two 1-0 wins in the early rounds, home to Derby County and away at Bristol City had set up a Fifth Round tie at Goodison against Norwich City soon after Valentine’s Day.
The fans showed up, and so did the players in a sweeping 5-0 win with goals from Anders Limpar, Joe Parkinson, Paul Rideout, Duncan Ferguson and Graham Stuart. Then, drawn at home against Newcastle in the quarterfinals, the Blues won 1-0 again with Dave Watson grabbing the winner. Into the semifinals went the Toffees, and in an inspirational performance, thrashed Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 with goals from Matt Jackson, Stuart and a late Daniel Amokachi brace sandwiching Jurgen Klinsmann’s penalty for Spurs.
Going into the final week of the Premiership season, Everton sat in 17th place four points clear of relegation. The trip to bottom-of-the-table and already-relegated Ipswich Town proved to be a successful one for the Blues as a sole Rideout goal got them three points and ensured safety for the season. A draw away at Coventry City on the last day of the Premiership was more an exercise in keeping the players fit and their minds on the key prize coming up this weekend, the FA Cup Final against a bitter Manchester United side.
Alex Ferguson had been pipped to the post by Kenny Dalglish’s Blackburn Rovers, who lifted the championship on the last day of the season despite losing 2–1 at Liverpool, with the Red Devils held to a 1–1 draw at West Ham United. With Fergie’s dream of a domestic double gone, the Scotsman wants to ensure his team do not finish the season empty-handed.
So here we are, Thursday 18th May, 1995. For the next three days, Royal Blue Mersey is going to preview the FA Cup Final, cover the game itself, and follow with post-match reaction through till Sunday evening, please enjoy this ride back in time with us.